GEOEarthKAM grows out of a dynamic institutional and educational context:
The most challenging geographic problems facing young adolescents at the beginning of the 21st century are environmental, including rapid climate and ecological change. Advances in technology, such as smart sensors used in combination with high resolution satellite imagery, are creating new opportunities for studying these issues (National Science Foundation 2002). Few educational programs exist to develop students remote sensing and image analysis skills.
The 2001 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP 2002) results indicate that at Grade 8 there has been a significant increase in the classroom discussion of environmental issues from 1994 to 2001 (21 percent to 24 percent discussing environmental topics once or twice a week) but an alarmingly low rate of computer-based technology use in middle and high school geography instruction (NAEP 2002, 164).
Earth Science has almost disappeared from middle and high school classrooms nationwide. Changes in science curricula to favor the life sciences, physics, and chemistry have caused a vacuum in this vital subject area; this is an opportunity for geography. Physical and environmental patterns and processes that were taught in science must now be taught by geography/social studies teachers. Few geography teachers are well prepared in this arena.
Increasing emphasis on language arts, mathematics, and science education and decreasing emphasis on social studies because of federal educational funding and policy initiatives has caused geography educators to seek closer partnerships with our cognate discipline of science;
National initiatives to change the nature of geography and science education to emphasize the inquiry process and to capitalize on the Internet and visualization technology create a demand for programs that assist educators in developing these skills.
The least taught elements of the National Geography Standards are Physical Processes, the World in Spatial Terms, and Environment and Society. This may be because geography teachers are largely history/social studies trained and have little knowledge of physical geography.
Sarah Witham Bednarz | Department of Geography | Texas A&M University | College Station, Texas 77843-3147